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Scholastic Kids Press Corps
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dr. martin luther king montgomery bus boycott Dr. Martin Luther King addresses a congregation before the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. (Photo: © Kino Lorber)

Legacy of a Dream

Documentary honors Martin Luther King, civil rights movement

By Fred Hechinger | null null , null

NEW YORK — The Church of the Intercession in New York's Harlem neighborhood was transformed into a movie theater recently for a very special event.

On February 17, the church hosted a screening of the documentary King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis. The screening was co-presented by the Maysles Cinema and the City University of New York. The event marked four events: the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Black History Month, Kino Lorber's release of the documentary on DVD, and a series of neighborhood screenings of the film happening across the country.

King documents Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s crusade for equality through newsreel and TV footage and audio clips. We follow his journey from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 to his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 to his funeral in 1968.

Dr. King's unyielding message – his call for change through non-violence – is all the more remarkable when we see harsh images of violence. In the film, his words are juxtaposed (placing things next to each other to compare and contrast them) with scenes of racism, beatings, and attacks civil rights activists faced from the public and the officials who were supposed to protect them.

The film's editor, Richard Kaplan, said that the production team had more than 400 hours of material.

"Our first cut [of King] was about 12 hours," Kaplan said after the screening. "To decide what to use and what not to use is like getting rid of some of your children."

king poster

Kaplan and the other filmmakers realized they had to set a limit and they agreed on three hours. "We decided we had to stop at that point, and that was just the decision we made."

Kaplan was also part of an effort to get the film out to students. A 24-minute version of King called Legacy of a Dream is being made available to schools across the country.

King was originally released in 1970 as a one-time-only screening in some 300 theaters across America. It was a kind of movie memorial to the civil rights leader.

But the film hasn't been screened since then. The diverse crowd that gathered at the Church of the Intercession was the first to see a public screening of King in 43 years.

Joining Kaplan on a post-screening panel was legendary documentarian Albert Maysles. He said that despite how long the movie was, he would gladly have watched more.

"I could have taken another hour and have been thankful for it," Maysles said. "Now I really know who this guy is."

Besides being a tribute to Dr. King, the film is also a unique document of an important moment in American history.

One member of the Intercession audience was Stanley Devaux. Devaux was in Alabama during the Dr. King's march on Selma, and he has been involved in the civil rights movement throughout his life.

After the screening, Devaux told the Kids Press Corps that the movie was an emotionally powerful reminder of "the pain, the death, and the price that was paid by so many people for the achievement of the civil rights movement."

"I cried a number of times" during the movie, Devaux said.

Visit the film's website to learn more about King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis, to find out if it's showing in your community, and learn how to host your own screening of the movie.


Read today’s story and answer the following question:

blog it Why do you think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is still important today? Has he inspired you? How?

Tell us what you think on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog!


For more on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to U.S. History, return to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Black History Month Special Report.


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